Water – is hot or cold the better choice?

Written by Sophie.

Since moving to Asia I have learnt a lot about the way that health and consumption is perceived and practised differently in the Far East.  From foods that are classified as ‘cooling’ and ‘heaty’, the practise of Ayurvedic medicine with its influences on your lifestyle, massage therapy, acupuncture, natural remedies in TCM….as well as meals being made up of the parts of animals that I have never dreamed of eating!

One thing which I noticed quite early on is the way that locals in Singapore (and expats who have lived here for a while) tend to drink warm water to quench thirst and re-hydrate, instead of a ‘refreshing’ glass of cold water as we would typically do in the West, .  I’ve read all sorts about this, from a glass of cold water waking up your metabolism, to a glass of slightly warmer water being absorbed better by your body and even curbing appetite.  I’ve never really decided which ‘camp’ I’m in on this one, I generally aim to have room temperature water because it’s just a bit easier to drink (particularly as I have sensitive teeth), but after a conversation with my colleagues about which is better I have decided to look into it further and make my decision…

Cold Water

  • Many prefer the taste (if you can say water has a taste) and feel of ice or cold water, particularly if you are out in hot weather or during exercise.
  • When you workout or are involved in intense activity, your body temperature rises so drinking cold water can help lower your temperature back to normal. This can be important, particularly in high heat or strong sun when you are at higher risk of heat stroke and dehydration. In addition, when you are hot, cold water is absorbed more quickly into your body than warm water, helping you re-hydrate more quickly (according to Columbia University) which is beneficial to you during your workout and in the hours afterwards.*
  • It has been said that drinking ice-cold water can help burn fat; consuming 500ml can burn an extra 20 calories!  This is because your body has to work harder to get it back up to its normal temperature.  However, it can be dangerous to over do this because of the shock to your body, and there is a cap on the amount of calories it can burn (i.e. you can’t have an extra 10 glasses of cold water and then have a guilt free chocolate bar)**
  • Although this isn’t about consumption of water, cold showers or exposing yourself to colder temperatures of water for short amounts of time also have a positive effect on your metabolism for the same reason as above.  It has also been said that it is good for circulation, improving levels of alertness, glowing skin AND shiny hair (you can just give your hair a blast at the end of a shower for this effect apparently).***

Hot Water

  • The number one benefit of drinking warm/hot water is that it aids digestion. The Chinese belief is that drinking cold water with a meal can solidify the fats in your stomach, whereas hotter water will aid with the digestion of your food.****  I don’t believe that water solidifies fats in your stomach as your body has ways of breaking down food and fats in the digestive system.  However, I am a big believer that warm water aids digestions; I find it very soothing to have a glass of warmer water when my stomach feels like it is struggling with digesting a meal (particularly when I have over-indulged!).
  • If you have sensitive teeth, it’s much easier to drink a glass of warmer water (although if you go too hot then  you will struggle with the teeth as well).
  • Aside from when you are exercising or generally overheated, your body absorbs warmer water more easily…as it is on a par with your own body temperature.  This helps with things like curbing appetite and the debate about whether or not you are ‘just thirsty’ when you are looking for your next meal.
  • Warm water is very cleansing, and having gone through the heating process also means that it is more ‘pure’ and therefore can help alleviate toxins from the body more easily, which in itself gives you so many benefits such as clearing skin, helps your body to shed excess fat, balances hormones (resulting in less wrinkles) and so on.*****


Overall, I think that it is more beneficial and natural to drink water which is nearer to room temperature on a regular basis.  I think that your digestion benefits from drinking slightly hotter water, particularly to start the day (especially if you add lemon juice or a slice of lemon).  My stomach is quite sensitive and often reacts to different foods or styles of cooking (as a lot of things are fried out here), but since I started drinking hot water with lemon every morning I have noticed a big difference.  I also find it very soothing at any time of the day.

Every now and then your body might benefit from drinking ice-cold water, say before a workout or when you’ve been lying out in the sun, but it doesn’t have any significant effect on your body so only do this if you enjoy it (or are really hot and just need some help in cooling down!).

Overall, I don’t think that either make much different to your overall health, just short-term effects which might change your mood or make you feel better in a certain way.  The main thing is that you keep yourself hydrated and are drinking enough of the stuff whatever temperature it is!  Here’s how you can work out how much water you should be drinking: http://www.slenderkitchen.com/how-to-calculate-how-much-water-you-should-drink-a-day/#

And for when you’re exercising: http://www.camelbak.com/hydrationcalculator


  1. *http://www.livestrong.com/article/533835-which-is-better-drinking-ice-water-or-warm-water/
  2. **http://greatist.com/health/drink-cold-water-fast-fat-loss
  3. ***http://home.bt.com/lifestyle/wellbeing/8-hot-health-benefits-of-ice-cold-water-11363928247713
  4. ****http://chinesecultural.ca/chinese_culture/chinese_culture.html
  5. *****http://www.medicaldaily.com/health-benefits-warm-water-6-ways-drinking-warm-water-can-heal-your-body-282218

Please note that this opinion is based on our own learnings and research.